The Unusual Thesis of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture

As I started to point out in my previous post, the overarching idea behind my book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture was that scribes copying their sacred texts in the early centuries of Christianity were not immune from the theological controversies raging in their day, but that they were, in some sense, participants in those disputes.   In pursuing that idea, I had to bring together two fields of academic inquiry that were almost always kept distinct from each other – ...

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An Amusing Anecdote about the State of Textual Criticism

I’d like to sum up my posts so far on the state of New Testament textual criticism – my original field of scholarship – when I entered into the field of student as a graduate student in the early 1980s by telling an anecdote. It has always struck me as rather amusing.  (I am basing all this on memory, and as I’ve just written a book on memory, I am acutely aware of how frail this particular human function is.  ...

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The Malaise in New Testament Textual Criticism

I indicated in my previous post that the overall character of the text (as opposed to the apparatus) of the Greek New Testament in 1981 was widely perceived by New Testament scholars in to be pretty much “set,” and not all much different from what it had been in 1881.  I need to explain that a bit.

I chose 1881 intentionally (not just for personal reasons: by fluke, it happens to have been exactly a century before I finished my Master’s ...

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Why New Testament Textual Criticism Had Grown Moribund

In my previous post I had begun to indicate that the field of New Testament textual criticism had grown notably and depressingly moribund in America by the late 1970s when I began my graduate studies.   But I didn’t explain just *why* most New Testament scholars – let alone scholars in other fields of religious studies or the humanities more broadly – did not find the field interesting and / or important.   The reason has to do with what I laid ...

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Evaluating the Views of Walter Bauer

In my last two posts I talked about the relationship of orthodoxy and heresy in early Christianity.   The standard view, held for many many centuries, goes back to the Church History  of the fourth-century church father Eusebius, who argued that orthodoxy represented the original views of Jesus and his disciples, and heresies were corruptions of that truth by willful, mean-spirited, wicked, and demon inspired teachers who wanted to lead others astray.

In 1934 Walter Bauer challenged that view in ...

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A Radically Different View of Orthodoxy and Heresy

In my last post I started discussing the terms “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” pointing out that their traditional/etymological meanings are not very helpful for historians.   “Orthodoxy” literally means the “right belief” about God, Christ, the world and so.   That means it is a theological term about religious truth.   But historians are not theologians who can tell you what is theologically true; they are scholars who try to establish what happened in the past.  And so how can a historian, acting as ...

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Questions on the Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library

I have received a number of questions from readers about the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, arising out of my earlier discussion of it and the beginning of the back and forth I’m having with Mark Goodacre (as we await his reply to my initial response; he is overseas attending an academic conference and has his hands tied up just now).   Here I will deal with two questions, one that’s a zinger and the other that has been asked ...

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My Response To Mark Goodacre on the Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library

A couple of days ago we enjoyed a guest post on the blog by Mark Goodacre, Professor of New Testament at Duke University.  In this post Mark provided five reasons for doubting if the story of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library – as that story has been recounted by scholars for many years – is in fact accurate.  Mark’s post was a summary of a longer, more detailed, and scholarly article that he has published on the subject.

I ...

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My Memory Book, ch. 3

In my previous post I started to summarize what I will be covering in my new book, which hopefully will be published next spring, possibly under the title Jesus Before the Gospels.   After devoting the first chapter to a demonstration that everyone agrees that some early Christians were inventing stories about Jesus (as seen in the apocryphal Gospels; it should be stressed – those who read and thought about these Gospels “remembered” Jesus in light of the stories ...

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My Memory Book, chs. 1-2

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, I did not start writing my current book until I had a very full outline already in place.  With a massive outline that covers everything you want to say, the book pretty much writes itself.   Well, that’s what I tell people.  It’s not true, of course; but I have found that once all the hard work of research and outlining is finished, the writing – just for me, of course – is ...

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